Three of our rainforest biologists, along with Steinhart Aquarium Director Chris Andrews, had the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica for 10 days in August of this year. The purpose of this trip was to collect specimens for the Costa Rica exhibits in our rainforest, develop in-country contacts, and to observe the natural habitats represented in our exhibits.
Biologists were able to become familiar with permitting and shipping processes, as well as gaining practical experience in the field. Our next few blogs will focus on some of the fascinating specimens that we observed and collected. We were also able to visit some places that focused on other areas of interest.
One of those places was the Aviarios Sloth Sanctuary, located near the mouth of the Estrella River, north of the beautiful beach town of Cahuita.
This sanctuary rescues and rehabilitates sloths with special needs. Since receiving their first three-fingered sloth in 1992, Aviarios has successfully hand-reared over 100 orphaned sloths of both the species that are found in Costa Rica.
The two species of sloths that are found in Costa Rica are – Bradypus variegatus, or ‘Three-fingered’ and Choloepus hoffmanni, or ‘Two-fingered’. Can you tell which is which? Clue: since we can’t see their front feet so well in these photos, look at their head (or what you can see of it). Three-fingered sloths in this part of Costa Rica have a dark nape and and a dark line extending from their eyes.
Sloths are arboreal folivores, which means they live in the trees and primarily eat leaves. Cellulose is notoriously hard to digest, and up to 2/3 of a sloth’s body weight can consist of stomach contents. A sloth’s fur hosts two species of symbiotic cyanobacteria which in turn host many species of non-parasitic insects. The majority of sloth deaths in Costa Rica are due to contact with electrical lines and poachers.
Over the next couple weeks check back to see blog posts about the insects, reptiles, and amphibians we encountered on this trip. ¡PURA VIDA!